In a reindeer corral

The southsami group Saanti Sijte (Essand) collected some of their herd last week. The mating is over, and now is the slaughtering season, until some time after new year. That may sound brutal, but reindeer meat is their income, and the reindeer herding is the traditional life of the sami people. Even the children attends, and for them everything is natural.

The calves got their earmark last July, but some were missed then and they were given a number untill the owner was identified. When everything calmes down in the corall the calf will follow the mother, and then everybody sees from her ears who is the owner.

The hard work is done in a very small corall. Here the ones that is going to be slaughtered is sorted out, and the same with reindeers who doesn’t belong to the group. This is manual work, and you really have to know what to do handling the animals. You also have to recognise all the different ear marks.

This big male is a handful to handle. He doesn’t know yet, but he is only going to be transported to were he really belongs.

Checking the ears to be sure who is the owner.

And in the end, quite a lot of them and especially the females, are let loose to run back to the mountains were they live.

Reindeers are herded over an area of approximately 140.000 square kilometres, or about 40 percent of Norway. In some northern communities the sami people are a a majority. The southsami lives in the middle of the country and they are very few. There are even norwegians who don’t know there are reindeer herdings in this part of the country. The video is from the corral I visited last week. The reindeers are very quiet moving around, but the calves are shouting for their mothers if separated, and vice versa.

<p><a href=”″>Saanti Sijte – Spaklarslia i Tydal</a> from <a href=”″>Bente Haarstad</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


Here is a link to the Reindeer Blog, a site about reindeer herding in different countries. And there are reindeer photo collections in my photo gallery.

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52 thoughts on “In a reindeer corral

  1. Very informative post, I definitely enjoyed learning about a part of the world that is very different to what I know. The internet is such a great tool when it brings different people from different walks of life together :)

    • There are some dangers, and different ones from most occupations, but most of all it is very hard work. Yes, the children have many skills to learn, and they can’t learn without beeing present. As they very often are. Thanks for your comment, Cindy.

  2. Woo Hoo !! I’m free !! So curious, how does reindeer meat taste like anyway? Loved the little calves as they are just too cute. I’d be a bit worried about those antlers though, looks like they could really do some damage. Great photos Bente ! Thanks for sharing a wonderful story.

    • I have never seen reindeers using the antlers to make damage, Emily, but of course it might happen when the big males are fighting in the mating season, and that can be serious fights. The female reindeer is the only deer with antlers and she use them to get to the food in wintertime, at that time the males have usually lost theirs..

      • The big boys can hardly be recognised when they loose those huge antlers. If you see one with big antlers late in winter it is probably a gelded one. ;) How the meat taste? It is difficult to describe, Emily. It has a lot of taste, more tasty than anything I know, much more than deer, and very much more than moose.

    • Not ornamental, Disperser, unless you put it on the wall or something. The reindeer female use it to chase away the males during winter, after he has used his legs to remove snow and ice from the ground (he has lost his antlers by this time). The males use them in the autumn, when they are fighting for the females. The antlers are not dangerous for people in the corral. The only reindeer that presumably could attack people, is strangely enough a tamed one, and then by using the front legs.

    • I know what you mean, about that time of year (probably finished now?), but the reindeer owners I know would be resentful if I called the sound the animals make for “grunting”, but of course I say so too, when they are not listening.. ;) Ah, interesting to know there are reindeers there, but farm, does it means they can roam quite freely, like in Scandinavia, or they are in enclosures?

      • My neighbors reindeer are in large enclosures. In Nome I believe it is more in the fashion of where you are. In western Alaska (Nome) those reindeer actually mix with the western Arctic caribou herd (-350000 animals).

  3. Thank you so much for the report. it was very interesting, also the video. I find it always fascinating how fast they can seperate the reindeers by recognize the earmarks so fast.
    Ha en kjempeflott dag! :)

    • I have been in reindeer corrals for years, and I couldn’t recognice an earmark unless maybe if someone hold the animal still, and they don’t, the recognice them on animals running fast and hundreds toghether. It is really impressive. Thanks for your comment, Allesistgut, og ha en flott dag du også!

  4. This post is very interesting to me Bente. Thanks for all the information and the beautiful pictures and the video.
    I think it is wonderful that the Sami uphold their traditions and bring their kids up in this natural way of living.

    • It is wonderful that they uphold their traditions, but they could have been lost by now. Norway had the same attitude to the sami people as USA to the native americans (and mayby Australia to the aborigines), that is sending the children to bording schools, deny them the use of their own language, and before that making their old religion illigal and burning all the sjaman drums and other important objects for culture and identity. Now this have changed from how the state see things, but there are still some prejudice alive and the land for reindeer herding is under pressure.

  5. This looks far less brutal than the conditions in which many of our cattle are slaughtered. At least the reindeer are allowed to roam free for most of their lives.

    • Roaming free are necessary for an animal like the reindeer, and they are in the corral maybe a couple of days during the year. The sami some times slaughter on the place (in the mountains) some times transport the animals. That day there were transport, but only about half an hours drive. Transportation is very stressful, it is bad for animal welfare and also for the meat quality.

    • Didn’t have to do a lot of dodging, since these animals do their best to keep away. But of course, accidents could happen. I know the animals quite well now, so I can stay close… Thanks, Melmann.

  6. Con sinceridad: presiento la fuerza y limpieza con que cargas tus reportajes fotográficos y, a veces como ahora, su misma explicación y ambientación, incluso hasta con añadidos muy buenos.Son un gran trabajo y pienso que en relación con tu geografía y de acuerdo con el tiempo del año.
    Todo me parece, en esas gentes, satisfecho con decencia y naturalidad.
    Gracias, Bente. Saludos cordiales

  7. Härliga och vackra bilder från renskiljningen! Jag har faktiskt varit på en i norra Sverige där jag bodde i min ungdom. Det var en upplevelse. Jag ser att du har svartvita bilder i nästa inlägg, men jag föredrar de här i färg, renarnas pälsar när de skiftar i vitt och beige är så vackra!

  8. Great post Bente. Is the Sami way of life surviving the 21st century? I hope so. It would be a tragedy if the reindeer were no longer herded – I have immense respect for the hardines of those folk.

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